In its latest investment round, fabless semiconductor start-up Wiliot has secured funding from Qualcomm Ventures and M Ventures that will help bring its battery-free Bluetooth technology to fruition.
For all the advancements that battery technology has brought to computing, communication and the internet of things, it also serves to limit these fields. Modern devices can go further, for longer but their power-hungry nature is still constrained by the limitations of current batteries and the need to recharge.
Wiliot’s mission is to scale IoT with battery-free Bluetooth. Based in Israel and California, the company was founded by Gigabit Wi-Fi pioneer Wilocity, a group of wireless engineers experienced in building new wireless products and their associated ecosystems.
The latest investment round follows Wiliot’s Series A funding, which ended in January, yielding $14 million. The start-up has raised a total of $19 million in its first 10 months as a semiconductor company.
“The quality and experience of the founding team at Wiliot, coupled with their passion to envision a more pervasive IoT, gives us the comfort that Wiliot will significantly change the game, particularly in the medical field, while expanding use and acceptance at a far larger scale,” said Edward Kliphuis, investment director of new businesses at M Ventures.
How battery-free Bluetooth works
The current Bluetooth beacon market has peaked in terms of reducing costs, size and ease of maintenance – a limit born largely from the use of batteries. Wilocity’s solution is to remove this element completely.
You may be left wondering how a wireless device can be powered without a battery. The answer is all around us – radio waves. Wiliot’s low-power technology can harvest energy from the electromagnetic radiation that saturates the air with our communications and broadcasting.
“This new technology will allow a sensor/radio/processor combination to be embedded in products, packaging, walls and furniture so that these things can be smarter and communicate with other Bluetooth devices, including smartphones,” said Tal Tamir, CEO and co-founder of Wiliot. “We will enable everything to be intelligent and every place we go and anything we wear, touch or use will include sensing, connected, passive devices with an unlimited lifetime.”
This is made possible thanks to the low-power requirements of the passive sensors and processors –the culmination of decades of fabrication process shrinks, as described by Moore’s Law.
Could battery-free Bluetooth transform IoT?
“The range of new applications is endless, given the level of miniaturization and lack of power dependency,” said Boaz Peer, Director at Qualcomm Ventures Israel. “As we look at the IoT space, we see battery-free Bluetooth technology as the next great leap, driving exponential growth for the entire IoT ecosystem, from smartphones and Wi-Fi hubs to battery powered beacons.”
It’s a grand vision that adds another piece to the battery-free IoT puzzle. Battery-free RFID sensors and actuators, triggered by the presence of things like temperature and pressure, have been available for some time. The widespread ability to transmit a Bluetooth signal with energy drawn from radio waves has the potential to bring sweeping changes to IoT.